Can Earbuds Cause Headaches?

Did you know that your earbuds may be causing headaches? We’ll explain why they do so here and how you can tackle the problem.

Woman with a headache

An average American between the ages of 19 to 29 uses earbuds or headphones for more than seven hours every week. We wear these devices when gaming, exercising, commuting, or working. But despite the convenience they offer, you’ll find thousands of consumers on different forums asking whether earbuds cause headaches.

Unfortunately, earbuds can give you a headache, especially if you play loud music or wear them too deep or for too long. While earbud headaches are yet to be medically recognized, most of us have experienced headaches after wearing them for a long time.

What Causes Headaches When Wearing Earbuds?

There could be many reasons why your earbuds are giving you headaches. Let’s dive into some of those reasons.

The Earbud Design

Earbuds have been designed to fit perfectly. After all, no one wants to keep adjusting their earbuds because they’re loose or threatening to fall. However, this feature also blocks air movement in and out of the ears, leading to pressure buildup that can give you headaches.

Woman putting in wireless earbuds

High Volume

We all have that song that we can’t resist but turn up the volume when it comes on. Other times, you’re in a noisy place and want to hear your podcast clearly. As such, you use the highest volume. But while that loud music can be invigorating, it can also be the reason you get headaches.

I know we all get annoyed with the multiple social media warnings about loud music, but you may want to consider paying attention. In addition, that loud volume can damage your ears.

Related article – What Specs On Earbuds Actually Tell You How Loud They Are

Wearing Earbuds For Extended Periods

Most of us enjoy working with some music in the background. In fact, it can motivate us and increase our productivity. But in an office with multiple people, you must use earbuds to avoid distracting your colleagues.

Unfortunately, wearing them for an extended period can result in headaches even if the music isn’t loud.

Interesting read – Can Earbuds Cause Neck Pain?

Unsuitable Earbud Tips

You can get earbud tips in various sizes. It can be small, medium, or large. But when picking, consider how big or small your ears are. Wrong ear tips don’t just affect sound quality but your ears as well. You’re likely to feel sore when you try to force tips inside your ears. Combine that with having them on for long hours, and you’re likely to get headaches at the end of the day.

Wearing Tight Earbuds

As much as earbuds are meant to be fitting, there are times you put them on and realize they’re too tight. When earbuds cause a clamping pressure on the sides of your head, don’t ignore them, as that is likely to lead to pain or headaches.

Shallow Ear Cup Padding

Earbuds usually come with padding, which is a necessary feature for safety purposes. But some earbuds, especially poor-quality ones, can cause headaches. That cup padding will put too much pressure on your ears, making you uncomfortable and causing soreness or headaches.

Pair of black wireless earbuds

How To Avoid Headaches Caused By Earbuds

By now, you can probably point out why you’ve been getting headaches after wearing earbuds. Let’s now talk about what you can do to avoid those headaches. Here are some ideas.

Lower The Volume

Do your ears a favor and lower the volume of your earbuds.

Not just because you want to protect yourself from headaches, but to avoid damaging your ears. While listening to loud music for a couple of minutes doesn’t really affect you that much, extended periods can be a menace.

Follow the 60/60 rule, which states listening to music for 60 minutes at 60% volume.

Avoid Wearing Earbuds Unless You’re Listening To Something

Most of us are guilty of doing this. We wear earbuds in public to limit interactions, even if nothing is playing. If this sounds like you, you may want to stop the habit. When you limit the time you wear headphones, your ears won’t feel compressed, hence reducing the possibility of headaches.

Avoid Wearing Earbuds For Extended Periods

We understand that your music or podcast entertains you during the day and keeps you active. But you can prevent earbud headaches by limiting the amount of time you have your earbuds on.

If you’re a music addict, such a change may be difficult. That’s why we recommend reducing the time gradually. 

For instance, if you wear earbuds for six hours, reduce it to four hours. You can also reduce per hour. Instead of having them on for a whole 60 minutes, try 30 to 40 minutes per hour. And if there’s no way of avoiding earbuds, then reduce the volume as much as possible.

Take a break post it note

Experiment With Different Types Of Earbuds To Find What Works For You

We all have different ears in terms of structure. What may work for your colleague or friend may be uncomfortable for you. It can take a bit of trial and error, but when you find the right earbuds, you can say goodbye to headaches.

Related article – Best Wireless Earbuds – Reviews And Buyers Guide

How To Get Rid Of Headaches Caused By Earbuds

If you have a headache caused by earbuds, these preventive measures may not help you at the moment. To relieve your pain, here are a few things you can do.

Take A Quick Nap

Another way to relieve an earbud headache is by taking a nap. Even a 30-minute nap will help you relax and ease the pain. But when resting, don’t wear earbuds, whether the music is on or off.

Take A Warm Shower

A warm shower will stimulate blood flow in your body, relieving tension in your head. Even better, take a warm shower followed by a nap.

Get Some Fresh Air To Help Your Headaches

Sometimes, all you need is some fresh air to ease the headache. A walk not only distracts you from the pain but increases your oxygen intake. It will get the muscles moving and relieve the headache.

Massage Your Head

Rub your temples gently on both sides using the index and middle fingers. Do this in a circular motion. You can also ask your friend or partner to give you a head or neck massage to relieve tension around your head.

Woman massaging her own head

Take a Painkiller

A paracetamol or aspirin will get rid of the pain immediately. Take a pill or two with water. The drug should start working in about 30 minutes. See your doctor before you take any medicine!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Wearing Earbuds Harmful?

Just because you get headaches from wearing earbuds doesn’t necessarily make them harmful. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Bluetooth radiation that earbuds emit is harmless. Even the headache you get from wearing earbuds should be temporary. With the suggested relief methods, you should be fine.

Still, that doesn’t negate the fact that some people might be more sensitive to EMF radiation than others. Some of the factors that make you experience side effects include:

  • How long do you use earbuds in a single session
  • How deep do the earbuds go into your ear canal
  • Your general health. If you already have a headache, wearing earbuds is likely to make it worse!
  • Environmental circumstances like humidity, temperature, and air pressure.

Related article – Can Earbuds Cause TMJ?

What Is The Alternative To Earbuds?

If your earbuds are making you uncomfortable, try using padded headphones instead. They will still give you a great listening experience, just like earbuds. And as a bonus, they hardly cause pain.

Is It Safe To Sleep With Earbuds?

According to research by the National Library of Medicine, music can help some people sleep better. This explains why people would want to sleep with earbuds. Plus, these devices will come in handy for those with partners in bed who prefer silence.

But is it safe to sleep with earbuds, or will you wake up with a headache? The answer to this will depend, although generally, it is a safe practice. If your earbuds are uncomfortable, then you won’t get a comfortable sleep. But if you usually get headaches because of loud music, try playing it at a low volume. With the night being quiet, you’ll still enjoy your soothing music, even at a low volume.

Related article – Is It Safe To Wear Earbuds While Sleeping?